With my new mini hookah (can you tell I love it?) it’s going to be easy to take a hookah on holiday with me in the future, but I’ve had some issues in the past. I usually like to go to places with a café culture, and these days that means there’s a hookah bar not too far away, but I do other things too. The year before last a couple of friends and I went to the Norfolk Broads for a week, and I had a bad feeling about the availability of a relaxing pipe.
For one thing Norfolk isn’t exactly full of big sophisticated cities; it’s mostly small villages with small village pubs, which are great but not exactly a hotbed of international culture. Also the UK has a smoking ban which has pretty much put the lid on hookah bars.
Anyway we were driving there, so we decided to throw a pipe and a box of bits in the back of the car. That was all cool, and off we motored. It was only when we got there that I started to have some second thoughts. See, there we were with a great big thing that runs on glowing charcoal, and we’d hired a 30 foot wooden boat.
In fact it was a 30 foot wooden sailing boat, so as well as all the usual flammable boat stuff – gas bottles, a fuel tank and about five tons of wood, for example – there were all these sails as well. I had a bad feeling about bits of coal blowing around – it was pretty windy – on what was basically a floating bomb. Also we didn’t have a windshield.
We sneaked the hookah on board after the usual lecture about how to make the boat work, then sailed off down river. First priority was to make a windshield and a beer can always works for that, but we only had bottled beer. No problem, there’s a shop half a mile down the river from the boatyard, so we tied up near it. That could have gone more smoothly, I admit, but it was a bit of a surprise to find that you need to push the gearstick forwards to put the engine in reverse. Anyway we didn’t hit anything very hard and managed to get the boat parked, and nipped off to the shop for a six-pack of Stella Artois. In the end we made it three six-packs, because the beer we’d brought with us wasn’t chilled and the fridge on the boat was kind of slow, and as soon as the first can was empty we knocked up a windshield in a couple of minutes.
Then the hookah fell over. OK, not right away, but pretty soon. We’d motored down the river to Malthouse Broad, which is basically a big lake thing you can reach from the river and is ideal for learning to sail. The problem is that out of the three of us I was the only one that had done any sailing, and some lessons seemed like a good idea so we could make all the sails and stuff work. Lesson number one is don’t use a hookah on a boat that tilts over violently every time you change direction.
Luckily the coal stayed inside the windshield, but it ended up a bit squashed because the windshield got flattened when the lifebelt fell off the cabin roof. Side note: If you ever need to rescue someone from the water with a lifebelt don’t throw it at them; throw it near them, otherwise you’ll knock them out. Those things are hard.
So we decided to keep the hookah for when the boat was anchored or tied up, except we only ever seemed to tie up at pubs. The weather was nice though, so we could sit outside at a table with a few pints and set the pipe up in the middle. Nobody seemed to mind and in fact we met a few cool people that way. Hookahs aren’t exactly a common site around there and everybody wanted to talk about it. In fact most of them wanted to try it, so maybe we started a local hookah boom. That would be a nice thought. Another nice thought is how all the pubs are right by the river. It’s actually pretty cool. They all have a car park out the back and a boat mooring out front. The difference is it’s legal to drive a boat after a couple of beers. Not clever, right enough, but legal.
I’m never going to take a standard hookah on a wooden boat again. What would be really cool is one of those portable hookahs I talked about in my last post. They’re compact and safe, and it would be really easy to tie it to something so it wouldn’t bounce around. In fact I think I’m going to get one next time I want to take a hookah on holiday.